In response to the wave of globalisation, B-schools reacted by promoting the idea of Internationalisation of Management Institutes. There were two major pitfalls in the idea – first, it was a delayed reaction and not a proactive action and secondly, in the name of internationalisation, higher education became a tradable commodity like any other commodity under globalisation.
While the central role of management institutes and universities was to help people understand this world and to improve their dealings with it, which always improved through multiple angles of viewing, different lenses and varied description, internationalisation brought in commoditisation leading to reduction in differentiation. The European accreditation systems, AMBA and EQUIS paddled internationalisation as one of the core drivers of excellence in b-schools or management institutes as they are called in India.
But the direction that accreditation systems gave to management institutes was one of copying the already prevalent commercially competitive approach of the United Kingdom – recruitment of international students, development of cross-border education for revenue, competition for teaching-talent (skilled immigration) and reputation (rankings). Internationalisation as a tradable commodity has become a crucial source of income for higher education in some of the countries like the UK, France, Canada, Australia and the US, compensating for a reduction of public support by national and state governments.
Indian management institutes, ever so eager to imitate the Whiteman, started signing up for international exchange of students, faculty, research and executive-education; of which the last three were more of flaunting and less of action. Statistics like ‘one in every four of our student gets a chance to spend a term abroad’ were plastered on every marketing material with no attention to the fact as to what became of the remaining three out of four or what was the imbalance between incoming and outgoing exchange students. The greed took some Indian institutions to create what was termed as ‘twinning programmes’ which was another way of selling foreign degrees in India. Western schools were too happy to sign up for twinning programmes because it gave them steady stream of international students and fees.
There was yet another model of imitative-innovation by the ‘jugaad’ minded Indians, where they recruited Indian students in India but took them abroad for off-shore delivery of content by Indian faculty peppered with some Whiteman here and there. Terms like ‘internationalisation of the curriculum’ for domestic students emerged as a favourite exaggeration used for consumption by public.
Campuses in the west are already worried about fewer Indians choosing to study abroad after COVID-19 and many experts have predicted that this will be the end of internationalisation as we have known it in the management institutes. Possibly a new thought around ‘internationalisation at home’ will replace the so far dominant thought of ‘internationalisation abroad.’ But this may be a pipe-dream because human greed knows no limits. The political and educational leaders may like to return as quickly as possible to the glorious days of international trade before COVID-19.
Will the craze of Internationalisation among the Indian management institutes survive the COVID-19 pandemic is anyone’s guess but for the moment the obsession is breathing through a ventilator support.
(First published 27 May 2020)
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